In our house, we’re heading straight into birthday season. Each of my four boys and my husband have birthdays between late September and Christmas — we celebrate a birthday in September, one in October, one in November, and two in December. Whew!
As you can probably imagine, the wham-bam nature of my boys’ birthdays leave little time or money for elaborate celebrations. Instead, I’ve embraced the concept of the “good-enough” birthday by creating birthdays full of nurturing and special — but super-simple — traditions. Here are a few little things we do every year, along with some ideas I’ve collected from fellow parents:
1. IMPROMPTU SURPRISE
Surprise! While your child’s away at school or running an errand with another adult, decorate your living room or her bedroom with some simple streamers and balloons. The effect is sure to bring a big smile.
2. BIRTHDAY BREAKFAST
Birthday dinners tend to be party foods like pizza and hot dogs — not the easiest to jazz up. Put your creative skills to use at breakfast instead, making a fun, kid-friendly meal.
3. MAKE A WISH, MOM!
What is your wish for your child’s year to come? New friends? More wiggly teeth? I love the idea of making a wish for your child’s year — out loud — just before he makes his own silent wish and blows out the candles.
4. HANDMADE CARDS (A WHOLE BUNCH)
Handmade birthday cards piled on your child’s dinner plate are always a welcome surprise. If your little one has siblings or cousins, get them in on the action to create an even bigger stack!
5. BALLOON ON THE BIRTHDAY CHAIR
My kids have always gotten a kick out of the simple tradition of a birthday balloon tied to the back of their chair at dinner. If you’ve got more than one child, consider creating a balloon bouquet and then letting the birthday child dole them out to his siblings.
6. LUNCH BOX NOTE
I admit I’ve never been able to get it together enough to scrawl a “lunchbox note” every day (and I’m not sure my kids want to hear from me at noon every day, anyway). I reserve those napkin notes for special days like birthdays, when they seem to pack an even bigger punch.
7. TELL THE BIRTH STORY
Every child loves to hear the story of how he or she was born — it’s a simple, timeless and FREE birthday gift you can give year after year. (That picture above is my minutes-old son Owen — he loves to hear how we wound up in a bathtub!)
8. LET THE CHILD HELP DECORATE THE CAKE
I’ve come to accept that cake decorating is just not a particular talent of mine. No matter how hard I try, frosting roses end up looking like flattened hats, and cartoon characters? Unrecognizable. I get around my lack of skill by having the kids help decorate their own cakes — they get to place the candles, decorate with sprinkles or candies, and even add their own frosting edges. They love it — and that way I don’t have to take the blame for a crappy-looking cake. (Like the one my son William helped me make in the photo.)
9. FAVORITE MEAL
My birthday kids get a kick out of being able to choose the birthday meal, exactly, down to the beverage. A couple of them always opt for pizza, but others make surprising choices like pot roast, baked chicken, and one year, we had peanut-butter toast.
10. OPEN PRESENTS FIRST
Little kids do not like to wait — and every other day of their lives, they do a lot of it. On their birthday, why not shake things up a little and let them choose the order of the proceedings? If they want to get to the gifts first, there’s no shame in letting them open before they eat.